Austin Peay approaching matchup vs No. 18 UCF like bowl game
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Austin Peay coach Will Healy wants his team to enjoy its trip to Florida, and for the Governors to upset Central Florida — in that order.
The Governors weren’t even scheduled to make this trip, but since his FCS program was added to 18th-ranked UCF’s schedule Healy is treating it like a bowl game for Austin Peay.
The team arrived in Orlando on a special charter flight on Thursday — a day early — with the coaches’ families in tow. Once on the ground, the Austin Peay contingent immediately headed to Disney World Theme Park for six hours of fun.
Austin Peay plans on Friday enjoying some time at Cocoa Beach, which is about an hour away. They will take care of some business as well, going through a walk-through practice.
The Governors will start to lock in and mentally prepare for their matchup Saturday with UCF (6-0) in what they jokingly have dubbed the “Peay Bowl.”
“I wanted to treat this like a bowl game, down to having a bowl gift on their beds when they got there,” said Healy, Austin Peay’s second year coach. “I wanted to make sure these kids can never have a better experience playing a college football game than what our guys are going to do this week.”
It could be dubbed the Hurricane Irma game.
Neither team was scheduled to play this weekend when the season begun, but storm forced the Knights to cancel their September home game against Georgia Tech. UCF needed an extra game and Austin Peay (5-3) was available.
Healy and his players made it work with a few conditions.
“This is going to be like a Super Bowl for them,” UCF coach Scott Frost said of the Governors. “They’re coming down here and treating this like a bowl game. I’ve been on a team like theirs when I was (an assistant coach) at Northern Iowa and when you get to play an FBS team there is nothing you want more in the world than to knock a team off and beat them.
“So I know they are going to come down here hungry and our guys have to ready.”
Healy, whose team entered the season ranked last in Division I football after losing 27 straight, isn’t expecting anything less than the Knights best. He understands what’s at stake for UCF.
“They’re fighting for something a lot bigger than just this week,” Healy said of Frost and the Knights. “He’s got those kids’ attention and they know they can do something really special this year and I think they will.”
Some other things to watch when Austin Peay visits No.18 UCF:
ON TARGET: UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton continues to have an outstanding second season, ranking second in the nation in passing efficiency (196.3) and third in passing yards per completion (16.4 yards).
HIGH OCTANE: The Knights offense struggled last week against Navy by its standards with just four touchdowns and 31 points. But UCF still has the top scoring offense in the country with 47.3 points per game.
BIG TURNAROUND: The Governors came into the season on a 27-game losing streak, which included going 0-11 during Healy’s first year. They are 5-3 now and have a realistic chance of making the FCS playoffs if they can win their final three games.
COMING OFF THE EDGE: Senior Tony Guerad has been the Knights most productive defensive lineman for two seasons now. Last week against Navy, he led the D-linemen with nine tackles against the Midshipmen’s triple option. Guerad also leads UCF’s defensive linemen for the season 23 stops to go along with 4.5 tackles for loss.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Freshman reserve Otis Anderson got his most extensive work in the Knights backfield during their game-sealing drive against late in the fourth quarter against Navy. Anderson, who is actually listed as a receiver on the depth chart, had a couple of nice runs on the drive and capped it with his first career rushing touchdown — a 10-yard run that gave UCF the 31-21 win.